Ice-margin and meltwater dynamics during the mid-Holocene in the Kangerlussuaq area of west Greenland

Jonathan L. Carrivick, Jacob Yde, Andrew J. Russell, Duncan J. Quincey, Thomas Ingeman-Nielsen, Joseph Mallalieu

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Land-terminating parts of the west Greenland ice sheet have exhibited highly dynamic meltwater regimes over the last few decades including episodes of extremely intense runoff driven by ice surface ablation, ponding of meltwater in an increasing number and size of lakes, and sudden outburst floods, or jokulhlaups', from these lakes. However, whether this meltwater runoff regime is unusual in a Holocene context has not been questioned. This study assembled high-resolution topographical data, geological and landcover data, and produced a glacial geomorphological map covering similar to 1200km(2). Digital analysis of the landforms reveals a mid-Holocene land-terminating ice margin that was predominantly cold-based. This ice margin underwent sustained active retreat but with multiple minor advances. Over c.1000years meltwater runoff became impounded within numerous and extensive proglacial lakes and there were temporary connections between some of these lakes via spillways. The ice-dams of some of these lakes had several quasi-stable thicknesses. Meltwater was apparently predominantly from supraglacial sources although some distributary palaeochannel networks and some larger bedrock palaeochannels most likely relate to mid-Holocene subglacial hydrology. In comparison to the geomorphological record at other Northern Hemisphere ice-sheet margins the depositional landforms in this study area are few in number and variety and small in scale, most likely due to a restricted sediment supply. They include perched fans and deltas and perched braidplain terraces. Overall, meltwater sourcing, routing and the proglacial runoff regime during the mid-Holocene in this land-terminating part of the ice sheet was spatiotemporally variable, but in a manner very similar to that of the present day.
Original languageEnglish
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)369-387
Number of pages19
Publication statusPublished - 2017

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